A Montana judge on Tuesday kept a temporary injunction in place against a California utility as it attempts to cancel a contract with a wind farm south of the Canadian border because it could threaten a nearby cluster of golden eagles, according to San Diego Gas & Electric.
SDG&E wants Montana District Judge Brenda Gilbert to dismiss the case and allow it to cancel the contract with the Rim Rock wind farm near Cut Bank. But the judge declined to act after a daylong court hearing in Livingston.
Representatives of the two sides said they are to submit proposed findings by March 21.
The 126-turbine project was built by a U.S. subsidiary of Spanish wind power company NaturEner. It’s near seven golden eagle nests and dozens of other raptors, including Montana’s densest concentration of ferruginous hawks.
NaturEner has put measures in place to protect the birds from harm. That includes the use of radar and on-the-ground spotters to identify approaching birds so the turbines’ massive blades can be halted before the birds are killed.
But SDG&E has said in court documents that the project could still kill, displace or disturb eagles. The utility says NaturEner concealed that possibility until last December, when it turned over documents revealing the birds were at risk.
The utility also has sought to withdraw its pledge to invest $285 million in the $400 million wind farm.
To secure the loan for Rim Rock, NaturEner put up as collateral almost all of its assets – including its two other Montana wind farms, the company says. If SDG&E has its way, NaturEner representatives said they would be unable to repay the loan, and the three wind farms could be foreclosed upon.
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